Jeffrey Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges that he trafficked underage girls for sex when he was found dead in his jail cell

New York (AFP) - An autopsy on disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein – who was found dead in his jail cell – has concluded that he committed suicide by hanging, a coroner said Friday, answering one of the questions surrounding his death.

The ruling comes six days after the 66-year-old, who was accused of trafficking girls as young as 14 for sex, was discovered dead in New York’s high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center.

New York’s chief medical examiner Barbara Sampson said in a statement emailed to AFP that “after careful review of all investigative information, including complete autopsy findings” it was determined that Epstein killed himself.

The New York Times cited officials as saying that Epstein had used a bedsheet to hang himself.

The report came a day after US media reported that preliminary findings from the post-mortem examination had found broken bones in Epstein’s neck.

Epstein, a multi-millionaire who once counted Britain’s Prince Andrew and US President Donald Trump as friends, was charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

According to prosecutors, Epstein sexually exploited dozens of teenagers at his homes in Manhattan and Florida between 2002 and 2005.

He denied the charges but faced up to 45 years in jail if found guilty.

Epstein’s lawyers said Friday they were “not satisfied with the conclusions of the medical examiner” and would conduct their own investigation into his death, including demanding to see video footage from the jail.

“It is indisputable that the authorities violated their own protocols,” the lawyers said, decrying the “harsh, even medieval conditions” at the facility.

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating how such a high-profile inmate managed to take his own life just weeks after an earlier reported suicide attempt.

The warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein was housed has been temporarily reassigned and two guards put on administrative leave pending an investigation.

The guards were reportedly asleep when they should have been checking on Epstein.

Epstein’s death came a day after a court released documents in which an alleged victim said he used her as a “sex slave” and that she was forced to have sex with well-known politicians and businessmen.

Virginia Giuffre has alleged she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew, former US Senator and architect of the Northern Irish peace deal George Mitchell, ex-New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and American celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

- Lawsuits -

This photo taken on August 10, 2019 shows the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York where financier Jeffrey Epstein was held

They have all strenuously denied the allegations.

Prosecutors have pledged to pursue cases against anyone else involved in Epstein’s alleged crimes and earlier this week FBI agents raided his private island in the Caribbean.

Several women have also come forward seeking damages.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Araoz filed a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate, his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell and three other female accomplices.

Araoz said she was raped by Epstein as a 15-year-old. She said Maxwell, a British socialite and daughter of the late fraudster and media mogul Robert Maxwell, enabled his crimes.

Maxwell’s whereabouts are unknown but she was recently photographed at a restaurant in Los Angeles, according to US reports.

On Friday two other women filed a $100 million lawsuit against Epstein’s estate.

They were working as hostesses in a Manhattan restaurant in 2004 when a woman described as a “recruiter” for Epstein approached them, they said.

The recruiter allegedly offered the pair hundreds of dollars each to go to Epstein’s home and give him a massage, assuring them there would be no sexual contact, according to the lawsuit.

Two days later they went to Epstein’s luxurious mansion near Central Park. Once they were in the massage room, the eight-page lawsuit said, Epstein was sexually aggressive towards them before giving them several hundred dollars.

Epstein was convicted in Florida in 2008 of paying young girls for massages but served just 13 months in jail under a secret plea deal struck with the then state prosecutor.